Bruins

Horton, Bruins must get nasty for playoffs

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Horton, Bruins must get nasty for playoffs

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The boom was audible all around the rink, and signified multiple 200-pound bodies slamming into the corner with the kind of overpowering force that can only be achieved by skating speed along with a healthy dollop of brute force.

The top two Bruins forward lines along with the top four Bs defensemen were locked in 5-on-5 battle drills on half-ice at the end of Friday afternoons practice at TD Garden, and things were getting long on cuteness and low on intensity.

Patrice Bergeron was carrying the puck near the corner while attempting to cycle the puck, and he was absolutely clobbered by Nathan Horton from behind in a violent hit that knocked both Bergeron and Mark Recchi off their pins.

It was as if time froze once Horton had taken the biscuit from Bergeron and flicked the puck out of the zone, and there was a legitimate stunned expression on the face of both Bergeron and Recchi as they climbed back up on their skates.

Its a part of the game, right, said Bergeron. Thats the way its going to be in games. If you bring the intensity and emotion that you had in practice then everything will be fine. It was intense and I was the one on the receiving end, I guess. You need to get the puck out, and thats how you get the puck back, I guess. I was a little surprised. I wasnt expecting it necessarily, but its all good.

The message was certainly related to a turnover Bergeron made in the exact same spot in the defensive zone just one day earlier that led to Torontos game-tying goal, and perhaps Horton was sending out a message that everybody needs to get stronger on the puck.

As if to hammer his point home, Horton also drilled Dennis Seidenberg during another encounter in the always dangerous corner and the message really seemed to clear and appreciated.

Whatever the case, its got to make the Bs coaches giddy to see their top two forwards lines getting chippy with each other as ice time minutes and power play reps are worth their weight in gold during the playoffs. Both the Bergeron and David Krejci line could be considered No. 1 lines in the playoffs, and the BergeronRecchiBrad Marchand trio has actually led the forwards in ice time during each of the last few games.

That kind of thing has to serve as motivation to Horton and Co. on their forward line, and its starting to show in practice. That kind of fierce competition and intensity is only going to make all of the players up their competitive dials if its coming in small doses during practice on an as needed basis.

Killer instinct was exactly what the Philadelphia Flyers had last year in their playoff series with the Bruins once Krejci went down with a dislocated wrist courtesy of a Mike Richards collision at center ice. Theres always a little more room for all of that provided it remains once the real bullets start whizzing around in the playoffs.

Horton has been in a playoff state of mind with both his intensity and offensive production for the better part of a month. It was first noticeable when Horton enjoyed a monster of a game against the Edmonton Oilers in an otherwise sleepy affair, and knocked Oilers defenseman Theo Peckham out with one thunderous right hand to the face.

Since he took the ice in Edmonton Horton has 12 points (8 goals, 4 assists) along with a plus-9 and three fighting majors in 16 games, and has sported the proper surliness needed once playoff hockey gets going. While Horton quickly made amends with Bergeron in a post-practice conversation in the dressing room designed to smooth things over before he left the Garden without fully addressing his motives, the statement cant help but be appreciated.

Horton and the rest of the Bruins play much better hockey and are way more effective when theres a man-sized chip on their shoulder. That chip has alternated sizes in the handful of recent games as the Bs basically play out the regular season string, but Krejci indicated the fireworks were all about players like Horton who never got to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs while doing time with the Florida Panthers getting emotionally ready for a huge postseason to the Boston franchise.

It is what it is, said Krejci. Just change it up a little bit, I guess. It was nothing personal or anything. The practice was a little sleepy, I guess, and the physical game woke us up a bit and the practice was way better.

Lots of people are going through different emotions. As long as when the playoffs come everybody is on the same page and theyre feeling comfortable with themselves thats what everybody wants.

The constantly smiling Horton looks like hes found a comfortable snarl on the ice with the playoffs approaching, and that seems to be what everybody wants given the results that have been hard to miss.

Just ask Patrice Bergeron.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe

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Bruins hope to keep cooking with a winning recipe

The Bruins seemed to discover a winning formula on the West Coast. Now the challenge is to keep it going.

It took them more than a month of play in the regular season, but they finally won two games in a row. Anton Khudobin and the B's played strong defense and finally built leads against the Kings and Sharks, and they avoided the kind of soft goal or defensive mistake that has been at the heart of so many of their losses.

Clearly that kind of tight, defensive game is how they're going have to play until they get their full lineup back, and they need plenty of wins. They're currently stuck in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.

"It's always nice to get a couple of wins, especially against tough teams," said David Krejci, who is scoreless but averaging almost 17 minutes of ice time  in the two games since returning from a back injury. "We knew we had some areas of our game that we had to improve, and we still do after the start to the game we had against San Jose. It's nice to get two in a row, and we're focusing on three in [New Jersey]. We're building toward something, and we're on the right track. It's a big game [against the Devils].

"Playing with a lead, playing good defensively and having a good, structured game with everybody buying in . . . when you have a young team and you're playing strong clubs like LA and San Jose, it really says a lot about what we're trying to do here when you can get the job done."

The good news is the Bruins are going to make it through the Thanksgiving marker within shouting distance of a playoff spot, but they're still just scratching the surface of what they need to do to stay relevant in the East. They're hoping that finally reeling off a couple of consecutive wins can start a run of good hockey at a time when they desperately need it.

"I think we've played as a five-man unit" said Kevan Miller. "Forwards are getting back to help the 'D', and defensemen are stepping up to help the forwards. When you play like that and everybody is on the same page, it makes it that much easier. I think everybody, whether you're coming from Providence or you're up here, has played the same systems, but it can be a little bit of a struggle to get everybody on the same page.

"We've done a pretty good job of that, but doing it for 60 minutes has been a bit of an issue. We're trying to work on that."

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Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

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Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

BRIGHTON, Mass – It had to be a bitter pill for Matt Grzelcyk to be sent back down to the AHL after playing solidly for the Bruins earlier this season. 

The 23-year-old Charlestown native was excellent playing in place of Torey Krug in Boston’s opening night win over the Nashville Predators, but his stay didn’t last very long. The former Boston University standout was back in the minor leagues shortly afterward once Krug returned from his fractured jaw a little earlier than expected. Now Krug is again banged up again with an upper body injury, and Grzelcyk has been called up to fill in for Krug during Wednesday night’s pre-Thanksgiving road game in New Jersey against the Devils.

Once again it will be about a focus on puck-moving and power play for Grzelcyk, who is the closest thing that the Bruins have to the smaller, skilled Krug in their minor-league system. 

“I was happy with how things went before I got sent to Providence, so I’m just going to try to do the things that I was doing well before I got sent down. Mentally knowing that I can play at the NHL level [is huge], and just going through the experience was positive,” said Grzelcyk. “Mentally my first year I think I was a little too nervous and tentatively with my play, and that’s not me at all when I’m at my best. I’m confident with the puck, and confident with my speed and ability. It was just about going out and doing it on the ice.”

Grzelcyk was okay down in Providence with four assists and a plus-4 rating in 14 games, but he’s been patiently waiting for another NHL call since logging 12:11 of solid puck-moving ice time in his lone appearance for Boston this season. Now he’ll get it in a likely pairing with Kevan Miller against the New Jersey Devils

“He’s a puck-mover. He’s quick. He can get up the ice and support the rush, and he’s a good distributor,” said Cassidy of Grzelcyk. “There are a lot of natural similarities to Torey [Krug] because of their physical makeup, but they are similar [players] with Torey at this level being a bit more significant offensive player. Whether it’s in [Grzelcyk] or not time will tell, but we believe it is and we just need to get it out of him.”

Grzelcyk will get a chance to show that offensive wrinkle and more when he suits up against the New Jersey Devils for his second game of the season after paying his dues with the P-Bruins overt the last month. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE